What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stressful situations. But in some cases, it becomes excessive and can cause sufferers to dread everyday situations.

This type of steady, all-over anxiety is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Other anxiety-related disorders include panic attacks—severe episodes of anxiety which happen in response to specific triggers—and obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is marked by persistent invasive thoughts or compulsions to carry out specific behaviors (such as hand-washing).

Anxiety so frequently co-occurs with depression that the two are thought to be twin faces of one disorder. Like depression, it strikes twice as many females as males.

Generally, anxiety arises first, often during childhood. Evidence suggests that both biology and environment can contribute to the disorder. Some people may have a genetic predisposition to anxiety; however, this does not make development of the condition inevitable. Early traumatic experiences can also reset the body’s normal fear-processing system so that it is hyper-reactive to stress.

The exaggerated worries and expectations of negative outcomes in unknown situations that typify anxiety are often accompanied by physical symptoms. These include muscle tension, headaches, stomach cramps, and frequent urination. Behavioral therapies, with or without medication to control symptoms, have proved highly effective against anxiety, especially in children.

Recent Posts on Anxiety

Somatic Experiencing

Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a powerful method of overcoming trauma via the mind-body connection, and often without medication. This piece by Saint-Laurent and Bird is a great introduction for those considering the treatment as well as for therapists interested in SE training.

Surprise

By The Book Brigade on March 26, 2015 in The Author Speaks
Surprise is good for the brain, great for relationships, and adds a certain frisson all around. Without it, life is lackluster. So why don't more people embrace the unexpected? They run from it or try to subdue it when they should instead roll with it.

Recovering From Seasonal Shifts in Mood in Bipolar Disorder

By Elizabeth Brondolo Ph.D. on March 26, 2015 in Take Control
For people who have bipolar disorder, seasonal changes in mood can disrupt your health and well being. You can learn to recognize and address these seasonal shifts before they cause harm. We examine the effects of these shifts on motivation, thinking and identity. Early recognition can help you gain better control of bipolar spectrum disorder.

Anorexia and the Dangers of Blog Post Titles

By Emily T. Troscianko on March 26, 2015 in A Hunger Artist
Few topics induce stronger emotion than parenting and children’s illness, and where emotions are heightened miscommunication can easily occur. Here I try to clarify my mother’s original argument, respond to some readers’ comments which blur the crucial distinction between personal and scientific ‘findings’, and reflect on the role of choice in recovery from anorexia.

The Germanwings Crash, and How We Can Think About It

As uncomfortable as it is to accept, we now have to deal with the fact that a pilot locked his fellow pilot out of the cockpit and intentionally flew a plane filled with passengers into a mountainside.

Is the Wedding Still On?

There's more to deciding how to treat acne than counting the pimples.

4 Steps to End Emotional Eating

Is food your best friend and your worst enemy? It doesn't have to be this way.

The Infestation Begins: Terror on the Prairie

What if a doctor fainted at the sight of blood, an actor trembled when facing an audience, or an entomologist panicked amidst a swarm of insects? Professionals might have access to certain knowledge and skills, but experts are humans. So what does a scientist do when he loses his nerve and can no longer sustain a safe, psychological distance from the object of his study?

Changing Our Perspectives on Mental Illness and Health

Addicts and those with co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD are frequently overwhelmed by shame. This is not just an internal issue of being ashamed of past behaviors.

Obama and Netanyahu in Family Therapy

After the initial evaluation and assessment, the therapist identified three classic family dysfunctions that exist in the relationship between Barack and Bibi: enmeshment, triangulation, and emotional cut-offs.

Should Autism Be Diagnosed in Infancy?

By Claudia M Gold M.D. on March 25, 2015 in Child in Mind
Autism research is coming out from the shadows of the "refrigerator mother theory' to show the importance of working with parent and child together to promote healthy development

How Drug Addiction Impacts Infant Care

By Molly S. Castelloe Ph.D. on March 24, 2015 in The Me in We
Drug abuse short circuits neural connections between child and caregiver.

Rescue the Mangroves, Rescue Ourselves?

By Sam Osherson Ph.D. on March 24, 2015 in Listen Up!
A small, dirt-road fishing village on the Pacific coast of Mexico organizes to restore their threatened ocean environment and provides hope for all of us. They remind us of the powerful hunger to take care of the natural world and "our animal relatives."

To Everything There Is a Season: A Time to Smash the Ice

By Julie J. Exline Ph.D. on March 24, 2015 in Light and Shadow
Is there a time for rage? After a brutal winter and an attempt to come to peace with the ice that wouldn't leave our streets and sidewalks, here's what happened when I finally had a chance to do something about it.

You the Seed vs. You the Gardener

By Hal Mathew on March 24, 2015 in Unagoraphobic
Hope springs eternal when you are both seed and gardener.

Are You a Traumatized Woman?

By Rosemary K.M. Sword on March 24, 2015 in The Time Cure
When we peruse the landscape of our world half the women we see have experienced a life-altering traumatic event, perhaps a natural disaster like a tornado, or a human-made disaster such as a car accident. And 1 in 3 women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime. But this number is probably much higher because these are only reported cases.

10 Ways Musical Training Boosts Brain Power

A wide range of new research shows that playing a musical instrument can boost brain function throughout a person's lifespan.

The One-Minute Group Meditation

Of all the interventions available for facilitators, this one minute at the end of group has impressed me most.

Yes, You Can Get Addicted to Exercise

For approximately 3 percent of the population, striving to stay fit does them more harm than good.

Five Strategies to Tame Your Inner Critic

You can’t get rid of your inner critic. It's just part of the human mind. But you can greatly reduce its fear level, and get it serving, rather than running, you. Here's a 5 Step Process to Tame Your Inner Critic.

10 Ways to Calm Your Interview Anxiety

It's normal to feel stressed or anxious before an important job interview. Your anxiety can motivate you but can also distract you, so here are 10 quick tips to tame it.

10 Psychological Skills Being in Business Teaches You

By Alice Boyes Ph.D. on March 23, 2015 in In Practice
Being business can help you strengthen skills that improve your personal life. Here’s how.

Why We Like (Or Don't Like) Comfort Foods

By Vinita Mehta Ph.D., Ed.M. on March 23, 2015 in Head Games
We all know that stress can affect your diet. But a new study finds that there's much more to the story.

The Politicization of Mental Health

By David J Ley Ph.D. on March 22, 2015 in Women Who Stray
Shootings, deaths and tragedies involving mental illness fill our news every day. Politicians are talking about mental health more than ever before. But, most political efforts to reform these issues ignore the deep underlying issues of funding, regulatory complexity and access which inhibit real reform.

The Best Strategy for Facing Your Biggest Fears

By Erin Olivo Ph.D. on March 22, 2015 in Wise Mind Living
Fear is an emotion that many people try to avoid because it makes you feel uncomfortable. Is there anything you aren’t facing right now because your fear is holding you back?

Did You Hate the Ice this Winter? An Exercise in Reframing

By Julie J. Exline Ph.D. on March 21, 2015 in Light and Shadow
Have you ever found yourself starting to hate something in nature, like ice? This winter I noticed that many of us here in my wintry city were not only afraid of the ice; we really started to hate the stuff. It became almost like a personal enemy. This entry describes an exercise that I used to try to make some sense of peace with the ice.

Does Anxiety Help You Survive in the Modern World?

Might the worrisome symptoms of anxiety have a useful function? Our ancestors needed to worry about lions, tigers, bears, and the headhunters over the next hill. But is anxiety still useful in the modern world? There are some scientific findings on this question.

Can We Talk?

By Laurie Essig Ph.D. on March 21, 2015 in Love, Inc
Speech was never free. It always had costs. But this commonsense has mixed with a moral panic to allow hate speech and discriminatory speech to thrive even as offensive speech is silenced. Can we talk?

How Most Anxiety Can be Beaten With Just One Simple Method

By Clifford N Lazarus Ph.D. on March 21, 2015 in Think Well
The most important ingredient in almost all successful anxiety treatments is what therapists call exposure. Here is what it is and why it works.